Inorganic Forces

Thomas EWBANK

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Item#: 105251 price:$250.00

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"THE CONFLICTS OF OPINION ON SLAVERY THAT HAVE AGITATED AND KEEP AGITATING THE UNION"

(SLAVERY) EWBANK, Thomas. Inorganic Forces Ordained to Supersede Human Slavery. New York: William Everdell & Sons, 1860. Slim octavo, disbound; pp. 32. $250.

First edition of the influential scientist's argument for the democratic power of technology, asserting "the crisis of the Union was at bottom a crisis of labor, and that slavery, an existing evil ‘incidental to progress,’ would simply disappear" as technological progress made it irrelevant, delivered before the American Ethnological Society, first issued in this rarely found edition.

As the nation moved toward Civil War, Thomas Ewbank, the English-born scientist and former U.S. Commissioner of Patents, a founder and president of the American Ethnological Society, authored what is "perhaps his most important work." Delivered as an address before the American Ethnological Society, Inorganic Forces "argued that the crisis of the Union was at bottom a crisis of labor, and that slavery, an existing evil 'incidental to progress,' would simply disappear as the progress of machine technology rendered slavery inefficient and ultimately obsolete." His perspective did not fully align with either anti- or pro-slavery forces. Opposing both the Dred Scott decision and the extension of slavery into the territories, he was viewed by Jefferson Davis and others as "hostile to the agrarian interests of a slaveholding Southern economy" (ANB). Yet Ewbank also believed in the biological inferiority of Africans, and dismissed both the ability of legislation and abolitionists' faith in a "moral power… [to] extinguish the evils of slavery." Progress, fueled by technology, was ultimately his "fundamental law." Those seeking the end of slavery should "acknowledge the agency of physical science to hasten its approach." Sabin 23312. Early library inkstamp to title page.

Text fresh, light edge-wear, small closed tear to one leaf, faint gutter-edge dampstaining, several leaves detached but intact. A very good copy.

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